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Piece Trapping

by Roger McIntyre

When a chess piece doesn't have any safe moves it is said to be trapped. A classic example of this is the way a Bishop can trap a Knight that is on the edge of the board. The diagram on the right shows such a position. No matter where the Knight moves the Bishop will be able to capture it. Trapping is an excellent tactic that can be used to limit a piece's effectiveness or even win the trapped piece.

In the diagram on the left the material is equal. White has managed to trap Black's Bishop in the corner while his own Bishop is free to roam. Although White can't capture Black's Bishop, he is essentially playing a Bishop up and should easily win this endgame.

A common error many beginning players make is taking "free" pawns without considering the consequences. When a Bishop captures a Rook Pawn, it can frequently be trapped by moving up the adjacent Knight Pawn as in the diagram on the right. White's King will soon move to b2 winning the Bishop... and the game.

Rooks are susceptible to being trapped on their original squares because it usually takes a few opening moves before the Rooks can move anywhere at all. Most of the time the trap is triggered by a Queen or Bishop taking the Knight Pawn that is diagonal to the Rook. The diagram on the left is a good example. This position can come up in the Philidor Defense (if Black plays badly). Black is threatening a nasty check with Qxf2 so at first glance it looks like castling is a good move for White. White however has an even better move: Qxb7! It is true that Black gets the check at f2 but his attack will quickly peter out and there is no way to save his trapped Queen Rook.

Even the mighty Queen can be trapped. The position on the right can come up after the moves: 1. e4 d6 2. Bc4 Nd7 3. Nf3 g6 4. Ng5 Nh6. It looks like Black is defending adequately but White has the shot 5. Bxf7+! Black is forced to take this Bishop with 5... Nxf7 and White traps the Queen with 6. Ne6!


Last modified: 09 February 2004
David Hayes